Abbey confirmed as BLM director
August 7, 2009
CARSON CITY, Nev. – A former state director of the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, who worked to cool rhetoric and build partnerships for managing public lands, was confirmed Friday as national director of the agency.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar praised the U.S. Senate confirmation of Bob Abbey, saying he has a “proven record of strong leadership and accomplishments” that will make him an outstanding overseer of the 258 million acres managed by the BLM across the West.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who recommended Abbey for the national post, echoed Salazar’s accolades.
“Coming from Nevada where nearly 90 percent of the land is federally managed, Bob understands the challenges that our state can sometimes face and will be very helpful in addressing them,” Reid said in a statement.
Abbey served eight years as the BLM’s director in Nevada, retiring in 2005. He also helped former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt complete a Utah wilderness inventory 10 years ago. More recently, he has been in private practice as a Nevada-based consultant.
Before coming to Nevada, he was state BLM director in Colorado, and also worked for the agency in various positions in Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, D.C., and Mississippi.
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In all, he spent 25 years at the BLM, and 32 years in the public sector.
As Nevada BLM director, he was a key proponent for the Great Basin Restoration Initiative, an ambitious plan to restore the natural balance of the desert and sagebrush ecosystem that stretches across northern Nevada and parts Oregon, Idaho and Utah.
The region is plagued by invasive species and prone to massive wildfires that fuel a repetitive cycle of weeds and flames.
He also was often at the center of decisions and disputes involving livestock grazing, wild horses, mining and recreation on large swaths of public land.
In a 2005 interview with The Associated Press just before his retirement, Abbey said he tried to focus on building consensus.
“In my interaction with various groups and stakeholders, I have found that we have much more in common than our differences,” he said.
Abbey also has long supported sharing access on BLM lands, particularly regarding mining and oil and gas development. In 2007 testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, he said he favored treating public lands as more than just commodity-production sites.
His nomination in June was met with general approval from conservationists, off-roaders and oil and gas industry officials.